Shotgun Review

From Santa Fe: Past as Presence

By Randall Miller September 12, 2010

Using scratched Plexiglas to create faint shadow drawings, Joanne Lefrak’s show, Past as Presence at Box Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, explores the stories and remnants left in the desert during America’s march to modernity. Subtle images of an Old West ghost town called Cabezon and the original test grounds for the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, NM reveal themselves slowly, like distant memories from places that had a brief but profound impact on the times that followed. 

The photographic quality of Lefrak’s renderings plays between the dichotomy of visibility and its opposite by relying on the poetry of shadow and dissolve as a space for the contemplation of memory, history, and consequence. This point is driven home in Rhapsody in August (Jungle Gym after Hiroshima) (2010), a copy of a famous photo of a Japanese woman standing next to the twisted remains of a playground after American forces dropped the A-bomb in 1945.

Accompanying the ten Plexiglas etchings are five audio tracks, mostly recorded from interviews the artist conducted with a man named Stan Lucero, one of the last residents of Cabezon, a farming town that was once a stopping post between Santa Fe and Fort Wingate. Lucero’s magical realist anecdotes about

Rhapsody in August (Jungle Gym After Hiroshima), 2010; etching on Plexiglas. Courtesy of the Artist and Box Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.

buried gold revealing itself in the dark or the devil in the gas lamp intimate the delicate outlines of a cultural heritage; one that has its own ways of explaining the mysteries of the world, and which has nearly faded away entirely due to time and the more dominant cultural force of scientific progress. Like our memories and the stories we tell, Lefrak’s shadows create their own reality, at once vivid and fugitive.



Past as Presence is on view at Box Gallery in Santa Fe, NM through October 2.

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